Today the South African Zionist Federation (SAZF), together with the Israeli Embassy in South Africa, handed over an OrCam device to the University of Witwatersrand Disability Rights Unit (DRU) at Solomon Mahlangu House. 

The OrCam device makes reading easier and more accessible for any student experiencing vision loss or any other alternative reading impairment. The device offers students access to the latest developments in visual assistive technology, and will offer members of the DRU a revolutionary all-in-one solution to assist and empower students facing reading challenges today.

“We are very excited to be joined by the Vice-Chancellor’s office, the Embassy of Israel, representatives from the University, Intamed (representing Orcam in South Africa) as well as members of the South African Union of Jewish Students and the Student Representative Council today. We hope that this OrCam device will help make learning more inclusive and accessible at the University of Witwatersrand, especially for students experiencing vision loss or reading impairments” shares Benji Shulman, Director of Public Policy at the SAZF. 

Andrew Sam, Adaptive Technologist at the DRU said they were delighted to be receiving an Orcam device as it is a solution that they have been interested in for a number of years. Explaining the importance of such technology he said that “not only does this donation enrich the life of one student but sends a powerful message of support and the importance of inclusivity to our entire Wits community.”

Carol Crossley, Register at Wits University, said that Wits has one of the largest numbers of disabled students in the country “For our disabled students, this just provides so many opportunities and we are particularly proud of what we have been able to achieve”. Highlighting the importance of working together she said that “it is through ventures like this that we are enabled to secure partnerships, sponsorships, engagement from industry that allows us to offer this to our students.”

Ambassador Eliav Belotsercovsky said that Israel has a strong connection with Wits because the mother of president Isaac Hertzog, the late Mrs Ora Hertzog had studied Mathematics at the University. He said further that “Israel has always had a lack of resources and has had to invest in its only real resource, its people which means allowing each and every person to reach his or her potential. We are so happy that this device will assist students who have visual impairments and we look forward to strengthening our relationship with Wits.” 

The handover was also attended by the South African Friends of Israel (SAFI), a movement that promotes dialogue between the South African Jewish community and the country’s broader cultural, political and civil society. Head of Communications at SAFI, added that “the OrCam device utilises highly accurate OCR (Optical Character Recognition) technology, enabling it to capture and read aloud printed or digital text from any surface. This is particularly useful for university students, who can also control and use the device at their own pace”. 

One of the standout features of OrCam is its ability to function as a magnifier for pictures, handwriting, maths formulas, and text – the device allows them to instantly read printed or digital text from any surface.

The SAZF and Israeli Embassy in South Africa hope to continue playing a key role as significant stakeholders at the University of Witwatersrand, by making the latest technological advancements available and accessible to all South African students on its campus.